English to be compulsory subject at Japanese elementary schools

Francis M. Hult fmhult at dolphin.upenn.edu
Tue Mar 28 04:38:59 UTC 2006


27.03 / 19:28


English to be compulsory subject at Japanese elementary schools

TOKYO. March 27, 2006. KAZINFORM - Learning English is expected soon to be 
made mandatory for students at all primary schools in Japan, following an 
education ministry panel's recommendation issued Monday, ministry officials 
said.The panel offered no specific timeline, but the education ministry plans 
to revise curriculum guidelines in the next academic year, which begins 
Saturday, Kazinform quotes Kyodo.

A Central Council for Education subpanel on foreign languages has recommended 
that those in the fifth and sixth grades be given an hour-long English lesson 
each week and that those in lower grades learn the language as part of special 
activity programs.

Some panel members noted that other Asian countries such as South Korea and 
China have already made English a compulsory primary school subject.

They urged that Japan consider such an option.

More than 90 percent of Japanese public primary schools already offer some 
form of English lessons, according to the officials.

But the subpanel's report noted that currently offered lessons are not 
necessarily uniform in activity and hours and cited the need to provide a 
common base for learning the language.

Japanese students take English as part of official school curricula when they 
enter junior high school.

The subpanel's proposal is subject to approval by the central council, which 
advises the education minister, but the officials say there appears to be 
little opposition in the council.

Some subpanel members opposed the idea, however, saying primary schools should 
place importance on teaching Japanese or other subjects than English.

They also said there is a lack of competent instructors for the language.

The panel report was compiled after 14 meetings that began in April 2004.

The report dismissed concern that making English compulsory might undermine 
students' Japanese language skills.

''Leaning English syntax and vocabulary should heighten their sensitivity to 
languages and it could even have a benign impact on developing the command of 
the national language,'' the report said.

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